TRENDS & Share of Americans With No Religious Affiliation Is Rising Significantly, New Data Shows

by David Crary, Time Magazine, 10/17/19.

The portion of Americans with no religious affiliation is rising significantly, in tandem with a sharp drop in the percentage that identifies as Christians, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.

Based on telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, Pew said Thursday that 65% of American adults now describe themselves as Christian, down from 77% in 2009. Meanwhile, the portion that describes their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.

Both Protestant and Roman Catholic ranks are losing population share, according to Pew. It said 43% of U.S. adults identify as Protestants, down from 51% in 2009, while 20% are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009.

Pew says all categories of the religiously unaffiliated population – often referred to as the “nones” grew in magnitude. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up from 2% in 2009; agnostics account for 5%, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as “nothing in particular,” up from 12% in 2009.

Read more at … https://time.com/5704040/american-religious-affiliations-decreasing/

ATHEISM & Is the “New Atheists” Lack of Belief Inconsistent with the Scientific Method? Prize-Winning Physicist Thinks It Is.

Interview by Lee Billings, Scientific American Magazine, 3/20/19 with

Marcelo Gleiser a 60-year-old Brazil-born theoretical physicist at Dartmouth College and prolific science popularizer, has won this year’s Templeton Prize. Valued at just under $1.5 million, the award from the John Templeton Foundation annually recognizes an individual “who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” 

Scientific American spoke with Gleiser about the award, how he plans to advance his message of consilience, the need for humility in science, why humans are special, and the fundamental source of his curiosity as a physicist.

You’ve written and spoken eloquently about nature of reality and consciousness, the genesis of life, the possibility of life beyond Earth, the origin and fate of the universe, and more. How do all those disparate topics synergize into one, cohesive message for you?

To me, science is one way of connecting with the mystery of existence. And if you think of it that way, the mystery of existence is something that we have wondered about ever since people began asking questions about who we are and where we come from. So while those questions are now part of scientific research, they are much, much older than science. I’m not talking about the science of materials, or high-temperature superconductivity, which is awesome and super important, but that’s not the kind of science I’m doing. I’m talking about science as part of a much grander and older sort of questioning about who we are in the big picture of the universe. To me, as a theoretical physicist and also someone who spends time out in the mountains, this sort of questioning offers a deeply spiritual connection with the world, through my mind and through my body. Einstein would have said the same thing, I think, with his cosmic religious feeling.

Why are you against atheism?

I honestly think atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method. What I mean by that is, what is atheism? It’s a statement, a categorical statement that expresses belief in nonbelief. “I don’t believe even though I have no evidence for or against, simply I don’t believe.” Period. It’s a declaration. But in science we don’t really do declarations. We say, “Okay, you can have a hypothesis, you have to have some evidence against or for that.” And so an agnostic would say, look, I have no evidence for God or any kind of god (What god, first of all? The Maori gods, or the Jewish or Christian or Muslim God? Which god is that?) But on the other hand, an agnostic would acknowledge no right to make a final statement about something he or she doesn’t know about. “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” and all that. This positions me very much against all of the “New Atheist” guys—even though I want my message to be respectful of people’s beliefs and reasoning, which might be community-based, or dignity-based, and so on. And I think obviously the Templeton Foundation likes all of this, because this is part of an emerging conversation. It’s not just me; it’s also my colleague the astrophysicist Adam Frank, and a bunch of others, talking more and more about the relation between science and spirituality...

Read more at … https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/atheism-is-inconsistent-with-the-scientific-method-prize-winning-physicist-says/

GOD’S EXISTENCE & Stephen Hawking: Only the Christian View of God Makes Sense.

by Fr. Matthew Schneider, Pathos, 10/22/18.

There are many different views of God. Hawking tries to argue against God’s existence but ends up leaving the Christian view of God as the only possible one.

In his final book, famed astrophysicist and atheist, Stephen Hawking spoke about God’s relationship to the universe. Live Science published an article titled: “Stephen Hawking’s Final Book Says There’s ‘No Possibility’ of God in Our Universe.” It includes some key quotations and summaries from the book, “Brief Answers to Big Questions,” published this week:

“If you accept, as I do, that the laws of nature are fixed, then it doesn’t take long to ask: What role is there for God?”

Hawking will argue for the universe existing at random:

“The universe itself, in all its mind-boggling vastness and complexity, could simply have popped into existence without violating the known laws of nature.”

Following this up, Hawking states:

“We have finally found something that doesn’t have a cause, because there was no time for a cause to exist in,” Hawking wrote. “For me this means that there is no possibility of a creator, because there is no time for a creator to have existed in.”

Other God’s Can’t Exist

These lines rule out many conceptions of God but leave the Christian conception of God unscathed.

The Judeo-Christian God Can Exist

However, the God of Judaism and Christianity is exempt from Hawking’s critique. Hawkings assumes properly, “the laws of nature are fixed,” then notes that the universe could have just started existing without violating the laws of nature. So far I concur. However, he makes three mistakes.

All Material

First, he assumes God is the level of the universe. Hawking states, “If you like, you can say the laws are the work of God, but that is more a definition of God than a proof of his existence.” However, the Christian view has never been a God at the level of the universe but one far above on a totally different level of existence.

All Temporal

Second, he assumes all causes are temporal. He explicitly states that God couldn’t have caused the universe as there was no time for God to exist in (3rd quote above). Even in science, some things would be simultaneous but causally related. We say gravity causes a rock to fall, but the force of gravity is simultaneous to the rock falling. Furthermore, time is the measurement of change but change indicates imperfection as it is a moment towards or away from perfection. Thus, the Christian conception of God is unchanging and thus outside of time.

Why?

Third, he forgets to ask why? Why is there anything, not nothing? Hawking just assumes it all just randomly happened but even randomness has a cause. The lottery is random but we all know that there is a cause behind the randomness.

In Christianity, we view God as the very act of being himself. In other words, God is IS. If you get this, you can pass Christian metaphysics 101. The idea is that “to be” doesn’t change the nature of a thing – we can think of a wookie even though no wookies are. It is God himself who maintains all – from quarks to humans to super-massive black holes – in existence. Each is insofar as God grants it existence. 

Conclusion

Hawking was an atheist and critiqued the concept of God, thinking it didn’t match physical reality. He, however, seems to understand God differently than orthodox Christians do. His critiques leave the orthodox Judeo-Christian view of a transcendent and intellectual God as the only possibility.

Christianity has two more concepts of God that are above reason but not contrary to it: the Trinity and the Incarnation. Hawking’s critiques of God don’t address these either for or against.

There is a reason science grew and developed most in Christianity: our rational view of God. Next time an atheist tries to argue against God, realize they often mean something other than God when they use the word “god” …

Read more at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/throughcatholiclenses/2018/10/stephen-hawking-only-the-christian-view-of-god-makes-sense/

NONES & The number of Americans ages 18-29 who have no religious affiliation has nearly quadrupled in the last 30 years. #ComparisonChart

from , “Flunking Sainthood,” 5/8/18.

CHART 27-Americans-18-29-with-no-religious-affiliation-NONES-1376x1032

2016 PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute)

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2018/03/08/if-mormonism-becomes-liberal-and-progressive-wont-it-decline-even-more/

BLACK HISTORY & 5 facts about the religious lives of African Americans #PewResearch #BlackHistoryMonth

by David Masci, Pew Research, 2/7/18.

Religion, particularly Christianity, has played an outsize role in African American history. While most Africans brought to the New World to be slaves were not Christians when they arrived, many of them and their descendants embraced Christianity, finding comfort in the Biblical message of spiritual equality and deliverance. In post-Civil War America, a burgeoning black church played a key role strengthening African American communities and in providing key support to the civil rights movement.

For Black History Month, here are five facts about the religious lives of African Americans.

1 Roughly eight-in-ten (79%) African Americans self-identify as Christian, as do seven-in-ten whites and 77% of Latinos, according to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study. Most black Christians and about half of all African Americans (53%) are associated with historically black Protestant churches, according to the study. Smaller shares of African Americans identify with evangelical Protestantism (14%), Catholicism (5%), mainline Protestantism (4%) and Islam (2%).

2 The first predominantly black denominations in the U.S. were founded in the late 18th century, some by free black people. Today, the largest historically black church in the U.S. is the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. Inc. Other large historically black churches include the Church of God in Christ, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), and two other Baptist churches – the National Baptist Convention of America and the Progressive National Baptist Association Inc.

3 African Americans are more religious than whites and Latinos by many measures of religious commitment. For instance, three-quarters of black Americans say religion is very important in their lives, compared with smaller shares of whites (49%) and Hispanics (59%); African Americans also are more likely to attend services at least once a week and to pray regularly. Black Americans (83%) are more likely to say they believe in God with absolute certainty than whites (61%) and Latinos (59%).

4 The share of African Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated has increased in recent years, mirroring national trends. In 2007, when the first Religious Landscape Study was conducted, only 12% of black Americans said they were religiously unaffiliated — that is, atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” By the time the 2014 Landscape Study was conducted, that number had grown to 18%. As with the general population, younger African American adults are more likely than older African Americans to be unaffiliated. Three-in-ten (29%) African Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 say they are unaffiliated compared with only 7% of black adults 65 and older who say this.

5 Older African Americans are more likely than younger black adults to be associated with historically black Protestant churches. While 63% of the Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945) say they identify with historically black denominations, only 41% of black Millennials say the same. (When the survey was conducted in 2014, Millennials included those born between 1981 and 1996.)

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/02/07/5-facts-about-the-religious-lives-of-african-americans/

RELIGION & Religious Nones Still Thank God, Ask for His Help #Pew #LifeWay

by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 4/21/16.

They probably won’t show up to church this week, but the religiously unaffiliated may still pray.

A Pew Research study found 76 percent of Americans say they thanked God for something in the past week. That includes 37 percent of the religiously unaffiliated.

A quarter of nones also say they asked God for help in the past week, while 6 percent say they got angry with Him.

Religious individuals are much more likely to say they’ve turned to God recently, but it’s noteworthy how many of those who claim no faith still report talking to God.

The religiously unaffiliated are broken into two categories: atheists/agnostics and those who are “nothing in particular.” Almost half (48 percent) of those who classify themselves as nothing in particular say they expressed gratitude to God in the past week. A third (32 percent) say they asked God for help.

Even a portion of atheists and agnostics say they thanked God in the past week (18 percent) and asked Him for help (13 percent).

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/04/21/religious-nones-still-thank-god-ask-for-his-help/

UNCHURCHED & An Executive Summary of “Unchurched” by Barna & Kinnaman

by John E. Murray (Missional Coach) 10/20/15.

An executive summary of Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them (George Barna and David Kinnaman, 2014, Tyndale Momentum, Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois).

Churchless looks intently at the US population in a statistically precise way. The statistics in the book are not created from individual church studies, or anecdotal information, nor is Churchless a compilation of statistical charts and trend analyses without context for the Church. The authors say that churches and ministries “can benefit from a better understanding of adults who intentionally avoid Christian churches. God has called you and your faith community to expand his Kingdom in a particular place with unique features and cultural quirks. Translate the research insights you find here into practical, culturally appropriate action” (Location 1711).

The research for the book is the result of a series of 18 nationwide surveys between 2008 and 2014. The studies surveyed 20,524 adults, including 6,276 churchless adults. This study offers significant insights in perceptions, beliefs, behaviors, and experiences of a statistically significant group of individuals.

The churchless are rising in America. Churchless people were 30% of the population in the 1990s and in 2014 had risen to 43%. Barna and Kinnaman break the population up into four significant groups: The Actively Churched (49%), the Minimally Churched (8%), the De-Churched (33%) and the Purely Unchurched (10%). For the church, this means that a small but slowing growing portion of the population is truly unchurched, meaning that they do not and have not attended church at any time.

The authors rate secularization on a scale from antagonism to advocacy. The nine points on the scale are antagonism, rejection, resistance, doubt, indifference, curiosity, interest, engagement, and advocacy. The measure created by Barna is based on fifteen different variables that measure a person’s identity, beliefs, and behaviors in regards to God, the Bible, and church attendance. From these criteria, the researchers are able to place individuals on the scale from church antagonist to advocate. Using this scale, the population at large was reviewed in 2013. The survey placed 38% in the postmodern section of the scale (indifference to antagonism) with 10% falling in the rejection and antagonism end or highly postmodern. Among churchless adults these percentages rise even more heavily in this sector. One concerning trend is that as the data is separated by generations, the younger the generation the larger the percentage of it falls to the antagonist side of the scale with 48% of mosaics falling into the postchristian end of the spectrum.

One of the highlights of the book for me is the data on prayer. While all other activities related to religion have declined steadily since 2008, those indicating that they have prayed in the past seven days on the Annual OmniPoll by Barna are reversing the decline. This indicator has stayed rather high, above 80% most years. Of interest is that public prayer is a common element that leaves the unchurched feeling empty. The authors say “Public prayers seem more like scripted statements than authentic conversation with God, more like an extension of the teaching time, directed to the congregation rather than to the Lord.” This seems to indicate a possibility that true, heartfelt prayer where we are connected to God in a relationship may be one of the most overlooked tools for reaching churchless people.

The authors end the book with some strategies for reaching the unchurched. “We must not lose sight of the fact that appealing to the unchurched is a spiritual quest, not a business transaction or bottom-line proposition” (location 2413), the authors say. They lay out five strategies in the book: loving them as motivation for everything we do, having our hearts reignited for the lost and sharing Jesus with them, being selfless servants, being suffering servants who are able to show our struggles and God’s victories, being discerning of our culture and how God and the bible address the issues that culture faces, and prayer for the lost and the unchurched.
Barna and Kinnamann do a good job in Churchless of isolating the pertinent data for church leaders instead of just giving a long list of statistics. The data they isolate in the book and their guidance in applying it in real ministry in the 21st century makes this an important book for pastors and ministry leaders. They do not paint a bleak and unwinnable picture of what we face in Christian ministry, but show that with our eyes focused on the churchless around us and with a willingness to understand them and change our strategies to reach them, the churchless can be led home to a family that shares the love, life, and redemptive power of the Living God.

(Note: I am reading this book in the Kindle addition which does not have page numbers embedded at this time.)

Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them (George Barna and David Kinnaman, 2014, Tyndale Momentum, Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois).

STRATEGY & Is Yours Deliberate or Emergent?

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Henry Mintzberg, in his classic “Strategic Management Journal” article (see link) pointed out that there are two types of strategies: deliberate & emergent. I explored this difference for the church in my book “Growth by Accident, Death by Planning: How NOT To Kill a Growing Church (Abingdon Press). Here is a brief explanation.

  1. “Deliberate” strategies are based upon analysis of strengths, opportunities, etc. (i.e SWOT).
  2. “Emergent” strategies occur when unforeseen opportunities are taken advantage of, sometimes accidentally. Emergent strategies are almost impossible to replicate. But in the church world this is often when we see rapid church growth.

The lesson from Mintzberg’s classic article is to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities, but to spend the majority of your time making deliberate long-term plants.

Strategic Managemtent Journal, Vol. 6, 25 7-2 72 (1985)

Of Strategies, Deliberate and Emergent

HENRY MINTZBERG
Faculty of Management, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

JAMES A. WATERS
Faculty of Administrative Studies, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Summary
Deliberate and emergent strategies mnay be conceived as twvoends of a continuumn along which real- world strategies lie. This paper seeks to develop this notion, and So?le basic issuies related to strategic choice, by elaborating along this continum various types of strategies uncovered in research. These includclestrategies labelled planned, entrepreneutrial, ideological, umZ1brella, process, uinconnected, consensuts anld im-posed,

Download the journal article here … http://sjbae.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/93336366/Mintzberg,%20Waters%20(1985).%20Of%20Strategies,%20Deliberate%20and%20Emergent.%20SMJ.pdf

RELIGIONS & Results From The Pew Research Religious Landscape Study

rls-banner.png The RLS surveys more than 35,000 Americans from all 50 states and analyzes the relationship between religious affiliation and various demographic factors. About the study | Read the full report

Religions

Explore religious groups in the U.S. by tradition, family and denomination

Geography, Explore religious affiliation data by state, region or select metro areas at the link below…

Read more at … http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

RELIGION & What’s driving the changes seen in Pew’s Religious Landscape Study

by Pew Research Fact Tank, 5/28/15.

Based on more than 35,000 interviews, the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study presented a detailed portrait of an America where changes in religious affiliation have affected all regions of the country and many demographic groups.

The survey’s findings raise questions about why these changes are occurring.

Fact Tank sat down with David Campbell, a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, to explore what the new findings mean. Campbell is the author of a number of books on religion, including (along with Robert Putnam) “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.”

For you, what stands out as the most important new finding or findings in the Religious Landscape Study?

The rise of the religiously unaffiliated has rightly drawn a lot of attention, but it is worth pausing to consider what that rise tells us. For one thing, the secular surge demonstrates the fluid and dynamic nature of America’s religious ecosystem. Most of the people who say that their religion is “nothing in particular” or “none” were raised in a household that was at least nominally religious. In other words, the “nones” were once “somethings.” But, equally important, most of the “nones” are what we might call soft secularists. Most do not describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, which suggests that they are not totally disaffected from all aspects of religion, or from a belief in a God or higher power. In other words, this suggests that many of the “nones” are not actively opposed or hostile to religion, and that some of them might even be attracted to a new form of religion.

The pattern of growing “none”-ism also reminds us that the U.S. version of secularism is different than what we have observed in Western Europe. There, secularism has grown steadily through a process of generational replacement — each generation is more secular than the last. Here, secularism has grown rapidly, which means it cannot be explained by generational turnover. But, as I noted, the growth has largely been in soft secularism. Given the highly innovative and entrepreneurial nature of American religion, it is probable that we will see a response by religious leaders to bring those soft secularists back. Whether they will succeed is an open question, but the U.S. has gone through other periods where secularism seemed to be on the rise, only to see religion respond and stem the tide of secularism. For example, religious influence in U.S. society was waning in the 1960s, but was on the rebound by the late 1970s.

Why have mainline Protestants continued to decline dramatically, while evangelical Protestants have shown only small declines?

Evangelicalism can hold on to its adherents because it is as much a subculture as a religion. While evangelicals are typically defined by more than the church they attend on Sunday, they are also bound by mutually reinforcing expressions of culture — the schools their children attend, the movies they watch, the websites they visit, the music they listen to. The deeper someone’s immersion into such a subculture, the more their religion is an integral part of their identity, and thus hard to leave. Furthermore, evangelicalism — both as a religion and a subculture — is highly innovative, entrepreneurial, and adaptable. Evangelical congregations are often engaged in “creative destruction” by regularly introducing such things as new forms of church organization and types of worship.

In contrast, mainline Protestantism is much less likely to be all-encompassing, largely because over most of American history, the national culture had a mainline Protestant accent. Thus, there was no need for mainline Protestants to develop the sort of subculture found among evangelicals. Similarly, while there are some notable exceptions, mainline congregations are generally steeped in more tradition than their evangelical counterparts, making it more difficult to innovate…

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/27/qa-a-look-at-whats-driving-the-changes-seen-in-our-religious-landscape-study/

RELIGION & Is Christianity in America doomed? #PewResearch

by David Linker, The Week, 5/15/15.

(Based on Pew Research)…The future of religion in America depends to a considerable extent on the future spiritual disposition of the “nones” — the religiously unaffiliated Americans who describe themselves as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular.” Their remarkably rapid growth — up from 16.1 percent to 22.8 percent of the population in just seven years — is closely connected to the fact that more than one third (36 percent) of the so-called Millennial generation declines to affiliate with any religion. As elderly Americans, who are far more religious, die off, they are being replaced, demographically, by what seems to be the most secular generation in American history.

It’s clear that these young people have little interest in taking part in religious traditions or institutions. But are they truly godless? And will their lack of faith persist as they age?

The answers to those questions are what will determine the shape of America’s religious, cultural, and moral character over the coming decades.

Teasing out the answers with any confidence will require more polling. But the current Pew poll can get us started — and point pollsters in the direction of the kinds of questions they need to start asking the religiously unaffiliated.

Pew helpfully breaks the nones down into three groups:

* Those who describe themselves as atheist or agnostic. (25 percent in 2007; 31 percent in 2014.)

* Those who claim to be “nothing in particular” and consider religion either not at all important or not very important. (Steady at 39 percent from 2007 to 2014.)

* Those who claim to be “nothing in particular” but nonetheless consider religion to be somewhat or very important. (36 percent in 2007; 30 percent in 2014.)..

Read more at … http://theweek.com/articles/555177/christianity-america-doomed

RELIGION & Pew Research Center’s New Report on Religion in America Shows the Power of Choosing Your Own Faith #TheAtlanticMagazine

by Emma Green, The Atlantic Monthly, 5/12/15.

…Every American has a religion story, which is why it’s a little strange to think of America as an increasingly secular nation. That would be one way to read the Pew Research Center’s new Religious Landscape Study, a massive survey of more than 35,000 American adults. Over the last seven years, it found, the share of Americans who aren’t part of any religion has grown significantly, rising from 16 to nearly 23 percent of the population. A small portion of this group are atheists and agnostics—3 and 4 percent, respectively. More commonly, though, they are detached from organized religion altogether. When asked what religion they identify with, they answer simply: “Nothing in particular.” All in all, roughly one in ten Americans say religion is “not at all important” to them.

But the survey actually reveals something more complex than a slow and steady march toward secularization. Those who didn’t identify with any particular religion were asked a follow-up question: “How important is religion in your life?” The answers reveal that this group might be churchless, but it’s not wholly faithless: 44 percent said religion is “very” or “somewhat” important to them, while 56 percent said religion isn’t important to them, according to Greg Smith, Pew’s associate director of research. This is a slight drop compared to findings from a similar survey taken in 2007: That year, 48 percent of the “nones” said religion was important to them, while 52 percent said it wasn’t.Even taking this decline into account, there’s a pretty significant group of Americans who don’t identify with a particular denomination or congregation, but who still care about religion to some degree. That’s not the pattern of a Godless nation; it’s the pattern of people finding God on their own terms.

And that holds true even among many of those who do identify with a particular faith. The survey gives at least a partial look at what the researchers call “religious switching”: People converting to other faiths, joining new kinds of churches, or ditching religion altogether. If you count switches among the major traditions in Protestantism (mainline, evangelical, and historically black congregations), roughly 42 percent of Americans no longer consider themselves part of the religion in which they were raised. The researchers point out that this estimate is probably on the low side; many people leave their childhood religions, only to return to them later in life. If those decisions were measured, the estimates of “religious switching” would likely be even higher…

Read more at … http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/05/american-religion-complicated-not-dead/392891/

ATHEISM & The False Equation of Atheism and Intellectual Sophistication #AtlanticMonthly

by EMMA GREEN, The Atlantic Monthly, 3/14/14.

Atheism is intellectually fashionable…

But vocal atheists reinforce this binary of Godly vs. godless, too—the argument is just not as obvious. Theirs is a subtle assertion: Believers aren’t educated or thoughtful enough to debunk God, and if they only knew more, rational evidence would surely offset faith…

This is problematic for several reasons. For one thing, it suggests that believers are inherently less thoughtful than non-believers. Watson tells stories of famous thinkers and artists who have struggled to reconcile themselves to a godless world. And these are helpful, in that they offer insight into how dynamic, creative people have tried to live. But that doesn’t mean the average believer’s search for meaning and understanding is any less rigorous or valuable—it just ends with a different conclusion: that God exists. Watson implies that full engagement with the project of being human in the modern world leads to atheism, and that’s just not true.

We know it’s not true because the vast majority of the world believes in God or some sort higher power. Worldwide, religious belief and observance vary widely by region. It’s tough to get a fully accurate global picture of faith in God or a “higher power,” but the metric of religiosity serves as a helpful proxy. Only 16 percent of the world’s population was not affiliated with a particular faith as of 2010, although many of these people believe in God or a spiritual deity, according to the Pew Research Center. More than three-fourths of the religiously unaffiliated live in the Asia-Pacific region, with a majority (62 percent) living in China. In other regions, the percentage of those who say they have no religious affiliation are much smaller: 7.7 percent in Latin America; 3.2 percent in sub-Saharan Africa; 0.6 percent in the Middle East…

Arguably, Watson wasn’t writing for the whole world—he stuck to Western thinkers and artists. But even if we focus on Europe and North America, his implicit argument isn’t supported by statistics. Eighteen percent of Europeans are religiously unaffiliated, but again, many of those people believe in God—30 percent of unaffiliated French people do, for example. And even though Christianity is growing fastest in Latin America and sub-Saharan African, as of 2010, Europe was still home to a quarter of the world’s Christians—the largest population in the world.

In America, which sociologists often describe as a uniquely religious country compared with the rest of the Western world, a vast majority of people have faith. According to Pew, 86 percent of Millennials, or people aged 18-33, say they believe in God, and 94 percent of people 34 and older say the same. It’s true that a growing group say they’re “not certain” about this belief, and it’s also true that affiliation with formal religious institutions is declining. But in terms of pure belief, self-described atheists and agnostics are a small minority, making up only six percent of the population…

Read more at … http://m.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/03/the-false-equation-of-atheism-and-intellectual-sophistication/284406/

RELIGIOUS PREFERENCE & 7.5 million people left religion since 2012: Three graphs from latest General Social Survey

by Tobin Grant, Corner of Church and State, 3/13/15.

When asked their “religious preference”, nearly one-in-four Americans now says “none.” Up until the 1990s, this group of so-called “nones” hovered in the single digits. The 2014 GSS showed that the so-called nones are 21 percent. How large is this group of nones? There are nearly as many Americans who claim no religion as there are Catholics (24 percent). If this growth continues, in a few years the largest “religion” in the U.S. may be no religion at all.

Read more at … http://tobingrant.religionnews.com/2015/03/12/7-5-million-people-left-religion-since-2012-three-graphs-latest-general-social-survey/

CHURCH ATTENDANCE & Quotes from “American Religion: Contemporary Trends” by Mark Chaves

(Compiled by Warren Bird from American Religion: Contemporary Trends by Mark Chaves, Princeton University Press.)

Relevant points:

– The U.S. ranks as one of the most pious and religious of any Western countries (p. 1-2)

– For most of the past 300 years, 35%-40% of the population has participated in church with some degree of regularity (p2)

– Despite what people SAY about weekly attendance, the true weekly rate is closer to 25% (p 45). If we use lesser frequencies, more than 60% of American adults have attended a service at a religious congregation in the last year (p 55).

– While it’s debatable whether the attendance is going down or remaining level, the data is unambiguous that overall church attendance is attendance not increasing (p 47). More specifically, religious service attendance declined in the several decades leading up to 1990 and seems to have been essentially stable thereafter (p 49).

– However, the percent who say they “never” attend church has risen steadily over the last 30 years as people shift from infrequent attendance to nonattendance (pp 46, 48).

– Finally, the Protestant portion of the U.S. population is in decline, due to the rise in “nones” (no religious preference), decline of mainline denominations, and rise in the percent of recent immigrants claiming a religion other than Christian (pp 17-24). The Protestant makeup was 62% in the early 1970s to just over 50% today (p 24). If that trend continues, we will soon be a Protestant-minority country.

Read more at … http://www.christianbook.com/apps/product?item_no=146850;product_redirect=1;Ntt=146850;item_code=WW;Ntk=keywords;event=ESRCP

RELIGION & Is religion’s declining influence good or bad? Those without religious affiliation are divided

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Chapters 16 & 15 in Spiritual Waypoints examine how to share the Good News with the growing percentage of Americans who consider themselves atheist or agnostic. A key research finding in that book is that atheist and agnostics are not growing in their hostility towards religion and the article below further confirms this. Thus, there may be ways we can connect those without faith by not being confrontative but letting our good works pave our way into conversation with them.”

by MICHAEL LIPKA, 9/23/14, Pew Research

We’ve known for some time that the number of Americans who say they have no religion has been growing. But while this group does not identify with a specific religious tradition or denomination, the “nones” are not uniformly against religion having a role in society, a new Pew Research Center surveyfinds.

Most View Religion's Waning Influence as Negative DevelopmentWe asked all respondents whether religion is gaining or losing influence in American life, and 72% of U.S. adults (including 70% of the religiously unaffiliated) said religion is losing influence. We then asked whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, and, not surprisingly, “nones” were much more likely than other major religious groups to say that the declining influence of religion in American life is a good thing.

The results, however, were not completely one-sided. In fact, religiously unaffiliated people who perceive religion’s influence as declining were split on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. About a third of “nones” overall (34%) said it is good that religion is losing influence, while a similar share (30%) said this is bad.

“Nones” include atheists and agnostics as well as people who have no religion in particular. Among only atheists and agnostics, half (50%) see religion’s influence as declining and see this as a good thing, while only 12% say it’s a bad thing. But among those who say their religion is “nothing in particular,” 37% say religion’s declining influence is a bad thing and 27% say it’s a good thing…

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/09/23/is-religions-declining-influence-good-or-bad-those-without-religious-affiliation-are-divided/

GENERATIONS & #PewResearch Says Generation Gaps Still Exist

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Younger generations not only feel the generation gap still exists between them and their boomer parents, but the younger generations also increasingly say they have no religion.  This short thought-provoking video is a helpful way to introduce this topic to a church before a sermon.”

Pew Research Center experts Paul Taylor, Alan Cooperman, Michael Dimock, Mark Lopez and Kim Parker discuss the demographic shifts affecting America now and in the future, and what that means for the economy, families, religion, racial and ethnic identity, political and social values, and technology use.   Read more about The Next America: http://www.pewresearch.org/packages/t…

RELIGIONS: Atheists & Agnostics Score Better on Religious Knowledge Survey than Evangelicals. #PewResearch

religious-knowledge-01 10-09-28U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey (executive summary)

by Pew Research Center

“Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.”

Read more at … http://www.pewforum.org/2010/09/28/u-s-religious-knowledge-survey/